Is Dairy a Necessary Component of Health?
Prior to discussing the benefits of raw milk, I do feel like it is important to emphasize that humans don’t need to consume dairy at all. Once we are weaned from breast milk, we have no additional need for dairy in our diet. All of the nutrition found in dairy is also readily available in organic produce. So if you happen to be someone who doesn’t particularly care for dairy, then there is no need for you to consume it at all. I share all of this information for people like myself who can’t live without dairy. If you crave a glass of cold frosty milk, or some stringy melted cheese, then this article is designed to make sure that you indulge in the healthiest possible way.
Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized Milk
Many of us have been told that raw milk is dangerous. However, the truth about this completely underrated, and misunderstood liquid, is that it can actually benefit your body in many ways. The negative effects of dairy mostly come from the poor quality of commercial dairy combined with the pasteurization and homogenization process, in which many of the natural occurring nutrients are destroyed. Contrary to popular belief, consuming commercial dairy can actually have negative effects on the body.
What is pasteurization?
When liquid is pasteurized, it is heated to just below boiling point in order to destroy any harmful pathogens (bacteria or viruses) it may contain. Pasteurization gets its name from its creator, Louis Pasteur. Pasteur originally used this method to prevent fermented wine from spoiling in 1856. By the late 1800s milk was also being commercially pasteurized in Europe, and then in the US in the early 1900s. Commercial pasteurization came about as a response to a rise in milk borne illnesses such as, typhoid fever, diarrhea, and Scarlett fever. These were the most common diseases around during the beginning of the 1900s up through WWII (7).
Why the need to pasteurize?
Over the last 100 years, there has been a phenomenal increase in industrial/commercial farming. Animals are kept in extremely unsanitary conditions, treated very poorly, and given low quality food thus causing diseases to spread much faster, and much more violently than they would naturally. Most commercial milk today comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where conditions are worsening year by year (8).
The livestock raised in these CAFOs are regularly given antibiotics to fight off diseases. In fact 80% of antibiotics used in the US are given to commercially farmed animals, including livestock and poultry (6). However, this is not solving the issues. An overuse of antibiotics ultimately leads to antibiotic resistance, creating stronger strains of harmful bacteria. For more information on commercial farming and the consequences it has on our health, read my blog on agriculture.
What is Homogenization?
Homogenization is done entirely for aesthetic purposes. The process stops the milk fat from separating and forming a layer of cream on top of the rest of the milk (a problem easily solved by shaking the bottle). To homogenize milk, it is pushed through a fine filter at high pressure, causing the fat globules to become 10 times smaller than their original size (1).
Today homogenization is ‘useful’ to industrial farms as it means they can mix milk from different herds, and apparently pro-long the shelf life of milk, allowing it to be exported more easily. It also allows dairy farms to remove the fat so that they can create various forms of milk (1%, 2%, and skim). Pasteurized milk is typically homogenized as well; one process doesn’t often exist without the other (1).
Why Pasteurization & Homogenization are bad.
From a nutritional point of view, both processes destroy the natural nutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, and proteins in milk by altering its chemical structure. Naturally occurring enzymes such as lactase, galactase, and phosphatase are destroyed, making the milk incredibly difficult to digest (3). This is part of the reason the prevalence of lactose intolerance has increased so much. A Weston A. Price survey of over 700 families found that 80% of those who were lactose intolerant were free from symptoms after they introduced raw milk into their diets (2). On the other hand, a study by Harvard University found that pasteurized milk might contain dangerously high levels of estrone sulfate, a compound linked to testicular, prostate, and breast cancer (4).
There are other studies that link the homogenization process to the onset of heart disease. The fats from the modified milk are too small to be broken down by the body, and act like a carrier for other small molecules such as proteins. Because of the small size, these molecules get absorbed into the bloodstream. Absorption into the bloodstream results in small injuries to the arterial walls. The body reacts by building a layer of cholesterol (plaque) as protection. This leads to a build up in the arteries, which places more strain on the heart and eventually leads to heart disease, and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke (5).
What is Organic Grass-Fed Raw Milk?
Put simply, raw organic milk is produced from livestock that have enjoyed open pastures, free movement, and have not been exposed to pesticides, toxins or chemicals. You can usually tell grass-fed organic milk from pasteurized milk by its color. Raw milk will usually look yellow-ish, rather than the accustomed pure white color we are all used to. The yellow hue is due to the carotenoids in the grass consumed by the cows, whereas a white color often indicates the cows were fed with wheat, corn, or soy. These are significantly lower in nutrients, and are often genetically modified and grown with pesticides (9).
Many people believe that raw milk is unsafe, because of dangerous bacteria that could be hiding in the product. In fact, the opposite is true; the chances that you will become hospitalized from raw milk are 1 in 6 million. Below are the documented cases of milk-borne illness for pasteurized and raw milk between 1998 and 2012 according to the CDC. You can see by the numbers, that pasteurized milk has an even greater risk for causing illness and death. Although there are more cases of outbreaks with raw milk, the outbreaks with pasteurized milk are more severe. This is due to the extremely unsanitary conditions that the cows are raised in along with the stronger strains of bacteria they get infected with.
Raw Milk (10)
- 119 total outbreaks
- 2,147 total illnesses
- 2 deaths
Pasteurized Milk (11)
- 26 total outbreaks
- 2,786 total illnesses
- 4 deaths
Biased CDC & FDA Information
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), raw milk is dangerous and should be avoided. They conveniently leave out the fact that the pathogenic bacteria that cause illness come from industrial/commercial farming practices rather than organic grass-fed animals. In case it wasn’t made clear before, you should never consume raw dairy from an industrial dairy farm. Unhealthy, diseased animals lead to unhealthy diseased milk period. Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy and an internationally recognized expert in raw milk production and safety, sent a letter to the CDC in 2012 trying to set the record straight. He wrote (12):
“As a grade A producer of retailed-approved raw milk in California, I find your raw milk page filled with highly erroneous and very misleading information… In California, we have legal retail-approved raw milk in 400 stores consumed by 75,000 consumers each week. This retail legal raw milk is tested and state inspected and far exceeds pasteurized milk product standards without any heat or processing.
It is clean raw milk from a single source dairy. There have been no deaths from raw milk in California in 37 years. Two years ago, I submitted a FOIA request to the CDC to request data on the two deaths that the CDC database claims were from raw milk. The data I received back from the CDC showed that in fact there had been no death from raw milk at all.
The two deaths had been from illegal Mexican bath tub cheese and not raw milk from any place in America. Why does the CDC persist in publishing this erroneous information?… The last people to die from milk died from pasteurized mild at Whittier farms in 2007, not from raw milk.”
This should clearly demonstrate that the CDC has their own agenda with regard to the information they push and share with the public. If I hired a private investigator, my guess would be that the position the CDC and FDA hold boils down to money. The dairy industry is a multi billion dollar organization, and unfortunately we see time and time again that money equals power.
Organic Grass-Fed Raw Milk Benefits
To avoid pasteurized and homogenized milk, seek out raw milk from organic grass-fed cows. Not only are you saving yourself from the harmful effects of modified milk, but you will also be adding many benefits to your overall health (12).
- Milk proteins are mostly made of casein, which can help maintain healthy blood pressure and increase mineral absorption.
- Raw milk contains more than 60 enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies) that increase digestion and absorption and support immune function. This includes phosphatase, an enzyme that aids in the absorption of calcium, and lipase, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats.
- Raw milk contains 62% more omega-3 fats than conventional milk.
- Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism.
- Loaded with healthy bacteria that help support the microbiome.
- Raw milk contains vitamins A, B ,C, D E, and K, in highly bioavailable forms, as well as minerals phosphorus, iron, magnesium and calcium.
Why Choose Raw?
Reduces Allergies: Recent studies are showing that children who drink raw milk are up to 50% less likely to develop allergies and 41% less likely to develop asthma. This is due to the natural immunizing effects of raw milk (13).
Prevention of Nutrient Deficiencies: Just one serving of raw milk contains 400 milligrams of calcium, 50 milligrams of magnesium, and 500 milligrams of potassium (2). These are highly important for human health, especially cellular function, bone density, detoxification, metabolism, and muscle health.
Probiotic Health: Probiotics are the microorganisms that live in your gut and support the absorption of nutrients. They help protect you from pathogenic organisms, inflammation, and mood imbalances. Raw milk products, such as yogurt and cheese, can help with disorders such as, IBS, yeast infection, diarrhea, colon cancer, and skin infections.
No Added Ingredients: Many commercial dairy products contain extra sugar and added artificial sweeteners to improve the taste, as well as thickening agents to make up for lost texture. All of these additions are unnecessary and can be harmful if they are consumed in excess.
Where to Buy Raw Milk?
Natural Grocery Stores: Health food stores often carry some raw dairy products. In California, Organic Pastures is fairly readily available. Claravale Farms is another option, and my personal favorite. It is super creamy, and more yellow in color. This lets me know that there are lots of good Omega 3’s in it.
Farmers Markets: Your local farmers market will most likely feature farms with raw milk products. In some states it will be labeled as ‘for pet consumption only’. Small, local, organic farms are always the best option for raw milk. My local farmers market features an organic grass-fed cheese and butter stand. Some of the cheeses are raw, and others aren’t. For most cheese varieties, they have to be heated in order to be created. In this case, it is fine as long as they are still coming from organic pasture raised animals.
Weston A Price Real Milk Finder: There is an awesome database that lists raw milk farms from state to state. I used this search feature years ago to find a farm in my area that I love. I have been able to get raw milk, kefir, and cheese hand delivered to my front door. I also love that it always comes in glass jars and tastes amazing. Find out what options you have in your area with the Milk Finder.
The government claims it is ‘protecting’ us from the dangers of raw milk through pasteurization, while also conveniently increasing the shelf life and maximizing profits for the dairy industry. The truth is that raw milk is an entirely different product from commercial dairy. It comes from real goats and cows that are allowed to live full lives, grazing outside, free from toxins, just as nature intended. Switching to raw milk means you are gifting your body with a food that is fresh and alive, rather than ‘dead’ and nutritionally empty.
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Affiliate Disclosure: In the spirit of full disclosure, there are affiliate links in this article, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase any such product. I only recommend products and services that I use and love myself.